If you know anything about Livingston County, you know that the name Ringstaff is synonymous with Livingston Central basketball. The Ringstaff clan has produced many standout basketball players over the last several decades. I was fortunate to become a good friend with one of them. That would be the aforementioned Glenn Ringstaff, who passed away this Saturday after a lengthy battle with cancer. Glenn was 53 years old.
Travel back with me if you will to the mid 1970s. Things looked like this. The basketball trunks were short and the boys’ hair was long. Guys were also were wearing platform shoes with big ole heels on them. There were times when I would enter a gym standing nearly 6’4” with my heels on. The dreaded leisure suits were also an item to reckon with.
There was something else that was always present in the ‘70s, and that was an intense rivalry between Trigg and Livingston in basketball. Sometimes our games with Livingston bordered on a little unfriendly when traveled to Smithland. I remember at least one or two skirmishes that took place.
One of the Livingston players that stood out the most to me back then was a guy named Glenn Ringstaff. Glenn was a year older than me and a class ahead in school. He had unique look about him. He was dark skinned with jet-black hair. I always thought he looked a little like an Indian. Sorry, Native American, got to be politically correct. Another thing that I remember about Glenn is that by the end of his high school career, he wore a big contraption of a knee brace. Glenn was a physically strong player and a very good one at that. He teamed with his younger brother Ricky to make Livingston a very formidable opponent.
Fast forward to the mid to late 1980s and, lo and behold, Glenn Ringstaff and I both ended up teaching at Trigg County Middle School. At first, it seemed sort of strange to me. Every time I looked at Glenn, all I could think of was Livingston Central. He seemed like a fish out of water in Trigg County black and white. That soon changed, however. Glenn and I became very good friends and shared a lot of great times together. I found Glenn to be a person of outstanding intelligence and character and just an all around nice guy. This week and next, I want to share a few of my favorite Glenn Ringstaff memories. They will all involve a little humor.
First, there is the time when Glenn and his wife Tammy were along with my wife Penny and I for a late night walk down the walking trail. We started on the end behind what was then Piggly Wiggly at about 9:30 p.m. We traveled down the trail till we got to the 5-way stop behind the school. Then, both of our wives just froze. They were staring into the darkness that was the trail on the west side of the 5-way stop. With woods on both sides, it was totally black. I boldly assured both ladies that we could continue walking without fear. I said, “Don’t worry, Glenn and I will watch out for you and protect you.” Tammy and Penny hesitantly agreed to go on through the darkness toward the basketball courts at Central Park. We had walked about 200 yards through the black without the aide or light of our cell phones since we didn’t have any then. You could only see a faint flicker of light from the streetlights on Lafayette Street. As we rounded the slight bend near the middle of the trail before you head toward Line Street, I was bopping along without a care. It was then that it hit me, or maybe I hit it. Without any warning, my head ran smack dab into something. I was stunned. None of the four of us had seen anything coming. We all jumped back to assess the situation. After a few seconds, I was able to make out the shadowy figure of Charlie Wharton dressed in full camouflage continuing down the trail. Charlie was an African American who was known to patrol the streets of Cadiz in camo at all hours of the day and night. Old Charlie never even made a whimper or grunt. He just kept moving. He probably thought, “Hey, who in their right mind would be out on a pitch black walking trail at this hour of night?” Now, isn’t that a great question?
Speaking of not getting shook up, Ole Glenn wasn’t fazed by the ordeal either. He just stayed calm and took it all in stride as he did most everything. Next week, I will share more experiences from my time with Glenn Ringstaff. He truly was a good man. He is survived by his wife Tammy and sons Alexander and Tanner.
OT: Glenn’s sons mirror the age of my sons Zack and Zeke.
Enthusiasm Makes the Difference
Mike Wright is the head coach of boys basketball and cross country at Trigg County High School. Emails concerning Coach’s Corner can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.>